False Invesment

In this digital era nowadays, our life is basically made up of many datas. The oatmeal we eat everyday is made from a well researched and tested grains, our lunch is the menu-of the-day from that daily down the road which is their simplified statistics saying that it’s “the customer’s favorite”, and that cute kitten post we liked earlier on instagram used those particular hashtags on different languages in order to reach a wider – yet more specific audience.

Basically I would assume all that requires time and effort is an investment, it doesn’t necessarily require budget or a third party employment. Maybe I’m not exactly a marketing expert now according to my own standards, but someday I will be. Now that is an investment. I have decided alongside the time I would learn more about marketing, despite what kind of career I would later ended up with.

However, I actually have dived in marketing field before I even knew it. As a child I was born from a merchant family, from my Chinese side of the family, so I ended up learning about my grandpa’s business – which is nearly every field you can imagine of- that he built from scratch. Those – and of course some child in the jungle kind of bedtime story. I started to study at a relatively young age due to the circumstances (I moved to Canada when I was three) and since I had to learn quite a lot for a toddler it has somehow became a habit. As an adult I juggled many project often related to marketing field, sometimes employed by my own mother as well (she is a marketing/business scholar) while here and there learning about finance from my father who is a finance scholar and an advisor for BI (Bank of Indonesia).

Now statistically, when I apply a job for example, for most companies this kind of experience is less of a significant statistics of working experience in comparison of whoever else it is who worked as a marketer in a company somewhere – despite of the real result they actually could bring. I call this ‘insignificant statistics’ because though this is indeed an experience, I really did start working at a really young age (about 12 I think) but these are things I cannot write in my CV. I can’t tell a future employer “I started with translating jobs at 12, translated many marketing journals and ended up studying them as well.”

Let’s get to a more concrete example. Around 23 I started freelancing on designing toys and sometimes I make handbags and jewelries as well. While studying media, I started marketing my stuffs and earning quite a good amount of income applying what I know from studying (and from my grandpa+mother) to the real world. Nearly everything I made  usually sold instantly. Now as time goes by and technology advances, people started selling through social media like facebook, twitter and the latest, instagram.

The latter is somewhat still a little mystery to me. I am honestly still trying to do the math and resolve the puzzle.  I use my instagram for learning purposes. So I ended up aiming for the real connections: DIY youtubers, independent artists, bloggers and many more. The reason is statistically, I  know people who has only 2-4k followers in instagram but made a  living out of it. I know someone who with at that time, 1k followers but get at least $300 monthly income just from ebay (please note that these are people whose main page is instagram with one main shop somewhere else). Contrariwise, I also know someone who has over 20k instagram followers but struggles with her sales. This is prove that often numbers means nothing. Of course, there are people whose follower and sales numbers makes more sense, (means they are in sync) but in marketing I believe paying attention to the odd number always prove to make you learn more.

However, employers often only look for someone who can improve their statistics: more views, more followers, more sales. They often neglect that these three (views, followers, sales) often has nothing to do with each other. It’s true that integrated marketing is quite effective nowadays, but relying on numbers is often misleading.

Let’s take another example. In an interview from a company once they asked me, what do I think if they offer their services to ebay sellers. Their service offers something like mitfahr (like uber, or sort of like hitchhike to make it simpler. Not for people but items that are difficult to transport). I said, “Its plausible but I won’t reccommend it”. You can guess the result. They refused to believe me. But I know ebay well enough and I have helped a few ebay sellers get through their problems with ebay’s policy tendency to side with the buyer. There are two simple reasons this will not work out.  First, generally ebay sellers has their own shipping preference because they want to maintain a better probability of recorded high rating in ebay. Second, taking their service means no tracking number, means no recorded data that assures their reliabilility as a seller so there is a good probability that they still could get a complain even if the person received the item, because it is not recorded in ebay or the billing service. Note that this company’s service is not affiliated with ebay and they aim for large items which is hard to ship, which also has a big probability that the item is expensive. To sum it up, the seller has to ship large, fragile item via a stranger with the risk of refund and no guarantee of good reputation either. For this kind of new company with such a service, trust and reliability should be a goal that build slowly overtime, nevertheless this strategy is definitely not the best hit. But well, to them – who am I to tell them that? They think I am not a good investment, but by refusing input – overlooking an odd data – they were making a bad investment. Or more precisely, a false investment.

Many people told me big companies are arrogant because of the high gap hierarchy, but I met start ups who are just as arrogant. Often, arrogance means ignoring odd datas and random information like the changing policy of social media such as faceboook. But this kind of odd information, when ignored could also lead to false investment. I know a company who spent 100 euros weekly for facebook advertising. Paying that much for facebook ads in 2016, you gotta be kidding me. Facebook pages policy change in 2014 and 2015 literally kills especially small businesses and limited views as well as interactions. Paying for exposure only kills your organic viewers. Still, too many companies here doesn’t know that (and sadly won’t believe it. Only one company so far actually openly admit to me , that they  found out after already spending way too much budget).

Still, the most ironic part is not the false investment itself but how some companies will continue these mistakes because they refuse to see the real problem: admitting that they do not know everything, and that they are not always right. Last time I read an article about how many marketers don’t know about marketing, speaking from the perspective of how the new ‘digital marketers’ has no idea about the essence of marketing. Well, in this case it’s more of a dire situation since they resulted to a false investment, and most probably resorted to investing to the wrong person as well while never noticing what the real problem was.

Most importantly, this is only written in one specific point of view. However, I also have read of someone who invested his time too much on the startups community that he almost jeopardized his own startup. How? The reason is simple: false investment. Apparently the startups community is full of flattery and has the effect similar to false sense of achievement in gaming. So to speak, they are busy congratulating each other. Thus its addicting and many people focused themselves, also in the fear of missing out (FOMO) while they could have actually invested their time and effort to grow their startups.

False investment has many formulations, but often the cause is the same: ego.

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